The Thief-Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner

Banks, T.F.

Published by Dell, 2002
ISBN 10: 0440236967 / ISBN 13: 9780440236962
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Synopsis: June 1815. When Henry Morton is called to the scene at Portman House in Claridge Square, the Bow Street constable finds a man dead in a hackney coach--ostensibly of asphyxiation. He was Halbert Glendinning, a gentleman of unsullied character. Then why was he seen frequenting one of London’s most notorious dens of iniquity? And why has the driver of the coach vanished into the night?

While Sir Nathaniel Conant, the chief magistrate at Number 4 Bow Street, accepts the official verdict of accidental death, Morton is certain that Glendinning was a victim of foul play. With the help of actress Arabella Malibrant, one of London’s most celebrated beauties, he embarks on his own discreet inquiry. And as the upper circles of London society close ranks against him, Morton races to unmask a killer whose motives are as complex and unfathomable as the passions that rule the human heart.

Review: Penzler Pick, November 2001: The first in a new series called "Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner," this well-executed historical draws readers back into the London of the early 19th century, when hackney coaches fought for space with brewery carts, horse-drawn chaises, peddlers' wagons, and milling throngs on the city's rough-and-tumble streets.

Banks has created a living, breathing landscape peopled with such characters as Bow Street constable Henry Morton and his intimate acquaintance, actress Arabella Malibrant, along with Chief Bow Street Magistrate Sir Nathaniel Conant, all of whom one will be delighted to encounter again.

When we first meet the large, lean Morton, with his "dark and inquisitive" eyes, the independent-minded officer of the law has been summoned from the boxing ring, where he regularly takes evening exercise, to the Portman Square townhouse of Mrs. Malibrant. There a rich young gentleman in an unfortunate condition (he is dead!) has arrived in a hackney, the driver of which has disappeared into the gloom of night.

Apparently the corpse had been alive enough that very morning to participate in a duel, but he has not succumbed to any wounds sustained in that battle. Upon seeing the body, as Arabella reports to Morton, one of her dinner guests, a Miss Louisa Hamilton, nearly fell over prostrate with grief.

"If you had heard poor Miss Hamilton cry out, Henry, you would have done anything to ease her pain. I tell you, it was wrenching. I could never duplicate it." She pitched her voice low and tried anyway. "'Oh, Richard, Richard...'"

"Very touching, I'm sure," Morton said. "There is only one problem...."

Arabella raised one perfect eyebrow.

"His name was not Richard."

Not all mystery fans enjoy the historical subgenre, while others read nothing else. This book is entertaining enough to appeal to either group, with T.F. Banks possessing the confidence and light touch of an outstanding new talent. --Otto Penzler

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Title: The Thief-Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street ...
Publisher: Dell
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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